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How to Have the Best School Website in Your Local Area

Your school website could be “the best in the local area” and get you repeated great feedback!

In this case study, we’ll show you how we helped Wylde Green Primary school revamp their website and bring it up to date. Their site now gets praise from parents, Governors and prospective parents, and has been described by the Head Teacher as the best in the local area.

Do you want your school website to be the best in your area? Then read on!

Tip: If you don’t have a lot of time to read this article, you can skim the page – headings are clear to see and will help you find the content most useful to you.

Our Brief

Wylde Green Primary’s website was out of date and proving difficult to manage. They’d received negative feedback about it from parents and staff were struggling to keep it up to date.

So they came to edupress for help.

We spent some time with Donna O’Toole, the Head, and key members of her team (including the Office Manager and the ICT Lead), to discover what they needed from their website.

Three Key Requirements

They needed THREE key things:

  1. A modern, professional website which would reflect well on the school.
  2. A website which was easy for parents and other stakeholders to use and navigate around.
  3. To save time managing their site and increase speed of updating it.

We met all three of those criteria – and then some!

Here’s how we did it.

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1. A Modern, Professional Website That Reflects Well on the School

We wanted to bring Wylde Green Primary’s website up to date as much as they did. A modern, clean design would help visitors to find what they were looking for and create a great impression for the school.

Wylde Green Primary School home page - grid based design with white background, black teaxt and red and blue *uniform colours) for accents.

The home page is the first thing most visitors see when they arrive at the site – since we launched the new site, 67% of visitors have arrived at this page first. The page needed to meet two objectives:

  1. Reflect well on the school and attract people both to the rest of the website and the school itself.
  2. Make it easy for visitors to find what they need fast.

So how does the home page meet these objectives?

An Attractive Home Page That Reflects Well on the School

The home page uses five methods to do this:

  1. The design is clean, modern and free of clutter.
  2. It uses the school colours (I won’t even tell you what they are – it should be obvious!) for accents, with dark grey on white for most of the text to aid legibility.
  3. It has a slideshow with photos that showcase may aspects of life at the school, such as:
    • Photos of children learning, demonstrating the schools’ commitment to acedemic standards and support for individual learning
    • Extra curricular activities such as music leassons, to show that the school offers more than just the core curriculum and helps children develop other talents
    • Fun activities such as the sponsored skipping event which the school undertook for the British Heart Foundation
    • A ‘Superstars’ assembly with parents involved in celebrating their childrens’ achievements.
  4. The school logo is at the top left but doesn’t dominate
  5. Finally, a photograph of the Head Teacher welcomes visitors and adds a personal touch.

An Attractive and Effective Design for Internal Pages

But it’s not just the home page that was designed to meet the first part of our brief: making the site modern and attractive. Internal pages continue this theme, as you can see from a gallery page:

WGPS-gallery

This gallery page showcases the school’s Superstar Awards, which it awards to the children each week. The gallery meets the brief in three ways:

  1. It uses modern coding techniques, replacing the old flash-based galleries which parents often complained about.
  2. It’s designed to load quickly, with thumbnails on the main page. When the user click on an image, they’re presented with a Lightbox, where they can view individual images or watch the whole set as a slideshow.
  3. It’s designed to work on small screens and mobile devices, with images resizing correctly and no loss of speed.

The school were delighted with the design and the modern, professional feel of their new website. So how did we meet objective number 2: a website which was easy for parents and other stakeholders to use and navigate?

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2. A Website that’s Easy to Use and Navigate

Parents and staff at Wylde Green Primary School are busy people with many demands on their time; your school is probably very similar. So how did we make sure that the website would help usesr to access the information they needed from the site quickly and easily?

Easy Access to Content via the Home Page

The old website had just three things on the home page: contact details, some text and a twitter feed. We redesigned the home pafe content form scratch so that vereything visitors accessed most frequenyl would be right there when they land on the site.

Wylde Green Primary School home page - grid based design with white background, black text and red and blue *uniform colours) for accents.

The home page is divided into four main areas:

  1. The header  – including the school logo and mission statement, contact details, a search bar and navigation
  2. The banner area – for temporary announcements and reminders (not shown above – we’ll come to that soon!)
  3. The slideshow and Head’s welcome
  4. Content blocks containing links to newsletters, letters home and galleries
  5. The footer containing links to frequently accessed pages, links for pupils, calendar dates and a twitter feed – this is repeated in all parts of the site.

Since launching the site we have been monitoring its performance using Google Analytics and have found that the most frequently accessed content comes under these headings. The school calendar and letters have been especially popular, with the calendar being powered by Google Calendar which can be edited by us or by school staff.

Parents and other visitors can now access all of this information with one click, and don’t have to use the search function.

Does your school website make all of this information accessible via the home page while keeping the design simple and uncluttered? If it doesn’t at the moment, we can help!

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One content block is a bit different – it’s designed to only be visible when it’s needed.

The Home Page Banner Makes the Site as Up to Date as Possible

The home page features banners below the navigation menu. These are temporary updates and reminders – snippets of information that aren’t long enough to merit a letter home or a page to themselves, reminders about a letter that’s gone home (with a link to the letter on the site), or alerts to new content on the site such as job vacancies (again, with a link to the vacancy page).

Banners can remind visitors of important dates, pass on urgent news or encourage people to visit a page in the site.

The school uses these to keep parents and visitors updated and has found it particularly useful when it comes to recruitment. It only take 5 minutes to add a new banner and it’s possible to schedule them for a future date. Banners can remind visitors of important dates, pass on urgent news or encourage people to visit a page in the site.

But it’s not just the design that makes this website easy to use – we also made it responsive, so it can be accessed on a mobile phone or tablet.

A Responsive Site Makes Things Easier Still

wgps-iphone

The responsive layout of the site means that parents needing to quickly access information such as the latest newsletter or letter about their child’s school trip, or to check the date of a forthcoming school event, can easily do this on their mobile phone. Imagine being able to stand in the playground and use your school website to tell parents when the next school trip is!

More importantly, making the site work well on mobile means that those families who don’t have a home PC but do have a smartphone have access to the school website too – useful for making sure that those children aren’t excluded when it comes to posting homework or learning links on the site.

The design adapts to all mobile devices including iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Blackberries and Windows Phones – everything you could think of, because it uses the most up to date coding techniques. It’s also designed to be fast on mobile phones – for example, the home page slideshow doesn’t appear on very small screens, which speeds things up.

All of the school websites developed by edupress are responsive; if your school site isn’t yet, it’s something we strongly recommend.

3. Helping the School Save Time Managing and Updating Their Website

The ICT Lead at Wylde Green had many responsibilities, She taught a class of here own as well as overseeing ICT provision in the school, looking after equipment and managing the school website. Needless to say, finding time to keep the website updated was proving a challenge.

Wylde Green Primary School asked us to manage their website for them. This means that we regularly receive documents, images and information from them which we upload to the site about 2-3 times a week. Our banners system means that if the school needs to get an announcement out quickly, we can turn this around in a few minutes, and often do so early in the morning before school has opened. The twitter feed on every page also means that the school’s tweets are immediately displayed on the website, which helps to get information out quickly.

Content which Wylde Green ask us to add to the site includes:

  • Galleries – we add at least two galleries each week after their Superstars Assemblies. We use a shared dropbox folder to do this which saves time and avoids the need to clog up people’s email systems.
  • Letters and newsletters – the school office sends these to us as PDFs or as Word documents which we convert to PDF before uploading to the website
  • Curriculum information – subject and year group leads send us curriculum overviews each term, information on targets and home work and much more. Each year group and subject has its own dedicated page on the website with a mine of informaiton.
  • Calendar dates – we manage a Google Calendar for the school which feeds into the site. Our Bronze package includes a Google calendar link as standard and our Silver package has the option of a more advanced calendar which you can manage from the site admin.

In the case of this school, the head decided that it’s a more efficient use of school resources for us to do all this for them, so they took out one of our website maintenance packages. However our user-friendly dashboard does mean that if your school has the resource in-house to do this, updating the website is quick and simple.

edupress-admin-screen

 

Conclusion – Wylde Green Primary School Are Proud of their Website, and So Are We!

The quote you read at the beginning of this article came from the Wylde Green Primary School newsletter – you can read it for yourself if you’d like. We were incredibly proud that we’d done such a good job of redesigning the website that Mrs O’Toole wanted to tell the whole school community about it.

If you want to have the best website in your local area as well, you know what to do! Click the links below to find out more about our website packages, or read the list of features for the full low-down.

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Posted in Primary Schools, School Websites, Uncategorized